Blog Entries Church in Mission

Seven Readings in Revelation (A Liberation Bible Study)

Images from the Book of Revelation

I have had the opportunity from time to time to write for Barclay Press. They have recently updated their website and created author pages, making some previously unavailable writings available online. Therefore, I wanted to share the link to the .pdf of my upcoming series of reflections on the book of Revelation published in the Fruit of the Vine, which are now available online.

In these reflections, I attempt to follow a more liberatory reading of the book of Revelation. Rather than reading it as a book about the end of the world, I suggest, following plenty of good scholarship, that this book really gives us a small glimpse into how the small, fledgling “minority” church, attempted to survive the oppressive imperial Roman regime. These reflections are based on a series of sermons I did on the subject in the spring of 2013 – those articles can be found here. Themes I cover in these reflections rooted in Revelation are nonviolence, justice for the poor and the beloved community. I hope you will enjoy it.

You can read the Revelation bible studies online here.

Church in Mission Convergent Friends DIY Featured

The Possibilities and Challenges of Building a Participatory Church


I love the word participation. It’s stem means “taking part” or to “partner.” The Quaker meeting of which I am the ‘released minister,’ Camas Friends, strives to be a participatory church. A partnering church. A church that welcomes the contributions, leadership, insights, resources, personalities and concerns of those who are in the meeting.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we live in a participatory culture. And the church would do well to learn from it. What was once reflective of the one-directional movement of consumer culture, there is much more interplay between producer and consumer today.

Church in Mission Featured The Cultural

When The Church Becomes a Department Store

You can drive around most neighborhoods here in the suburbs and find at least some vacant buildings. Some of them are small, and if not historic, they at least have a history.  While others are just enormous squares, nondescript, no personality or history at all. “throwaway” buildings might be a way to think about it. On our drive to take our oldest daughter to school, we drive past an old Car Dealership that is either defunct or has moved to a more “developed” part of town. In Either case these three or four separate parking lots, and multiple-unit buildings have sat empty as long as we’ve lived here and show no signs of being bought. The weeds and grass have begun their revolt, and I hope they succeed. Surrounding these vacant lots are open fields. Every time I drive by I am sad that these lots are taking up with could otherwise be open fields with trees and animals living there.

But this happens all the time. Some new franchise opens in an already over-saturated market, tries to out advertise, out sell, and out yell, with new products or looks, but underneath, we all know it’s the same story being sold just repacked with a different logo. And soon enough, everything closes down and those once wild fields of life and now empty fields of tar.

Church in Mission Featured

Connecting with Poverty in Our Community

A week or so ago the Oregonian published an article about poverty in our neck of the woods. The article profiles the “subtle shifts” of poverty taking place in Clark County, the county of which our meeting is a part. The city of Vancouver has worked to push poverty out towards the east parts of the county (Camas and Washougal) which makes demographics look better for the city, but in turn people end up moving out where there are less services available. What is even more interesting is that we learned that the city of Camas actually sweeps people back into Vancouver for the same reasons. This back and forth is not only hard on the people it affects but it keeps anyone from owning up to the problem or seeking solutions. This is why we were told last year by the police in Camas that there are no homeless in our town. This thinking underlies the ideology: “If we don’t see a problem, there must not be one.”

However, for those who have eyes to see, there is something going on. What we’re seeing in Camas/Washougal is an influx of poor who have no place else to go and when the get here there is little support for them. The Oregonian article is a nice write-up not only about poverty, but actually talks a little about how our Quaker meeting here in Camas is approaching the issue. As I told our congregation the Sunday after this came out: “It’s nice to get some good press every once  in a while. After all this is the kind of thing Churches should be in the news for.”

Church in Mission Featured The Pastorate

Creating Communities of “Artists”

This morning I noticed a torn piece of paper with something I’d written on it from awhile back:

  • How do we form a community that creates artists rather than just critics?
  • Justice should always come first, justice is innovative.

I am not sure what I was reading when I wrote these two thoughts down, but I know they are not original to me. But today I found these two statements helpful in reflection as our meeting is currently struggling to decide what to do with a house we own but is in need of a lot of care. We are a smaller church without a ton of resources but we have a deep desire to do what is right not only for us but also for the broader community of Camas and Washougal.

Blog Entries Church in Mission Convergent Friends Quaker

Modest Proposal .pdf Version Available

Because I’ve been posting about Brent Bill’s recent series of posts about the revitalization of Friends I wanted to alert all of you to the fact that he’s edited all the blog posts down into a .pdf. I was excited to learn he was going to organize them in this way and plan to have copies of these printed out and look forward to reading through them with the elders of our Quaker meeting.

You can view it and download it here.

Blog Entries Church in Mission

To The Church in North America by Kester Brewin

Came across this video today by Kester Brewin. I think it has a lot to say.

YouTube – To The Church in North America by Kester Brewin.

Church in Mission Featured Practices

Bored at Worship?

I came across this post awhile ago and have been meaning to link to it. In the post Skye discusses bordem in our worship services, not just from the typical congregant but also the pastor. He also comments on that article that’s been pretty popular online about “Hipster Christianity.”

Here’s a quote from Skye’s post that stands out to me:

“I have been in the church all of my seventy year life and I have been bored for most of it. The trouble is that even though we are looking for a relationship with God, most church leaders/preachers interpret that to mean a relationship with a church.”

via Bored at Church – SKYEBOX.

I know the feeling, there have been plenty of times when I felt I was showing up on Sunday morning because that’s what we do. I personally feel different now as a pastor and don’t think I’ve felt bored at our meetings but I am sure that some do feel this way.

Church in Mission Featured Quaker The Theological

In Search of a New Framework for Evangelism and Mission


One of the things I have become fascinated with over the course of the last decade falls broadly under the umbrella known as missiology, or the study of Christian missions. I like many of you have a history with big ‘E’ Evangelicalism where mission is generally understood as “winning souls for Christ.” Evangelism and mission under this rubric is really focused primarily on quantity of people who will give a public profession of Jesus usually represented in going forward for an alter call, saying a special prayer, and getting people to come to your church’s Sunday morning worship.

In the marketplace of churches there is great competition nowadays to get people to profess the Christ of one particular church or another, here professing Christ is more or less synonymous with coming to worship on Sunday morning. After all, if your soul was won for Christ what better way to prove that then to show up on a Sunday morning. Thus the word “church” itself has become synonymous with the worship service and the building. To make Christians is to get them to join the Sunday activities, to enter the building, the sit in the seat, to accept the do’s and the don’ts, and to fall in line with the acceptable categories laid out for Christians.

This way of thinking believes that Christianity is first and foremost getting people to agree with your particular arguments, and “facts” about what it means to be a Christian. Once someone agrees, this is usually symbolized by the altar or a prayer, and begining to come on Sunday morning, their soul is more or less “won.” Discipleship in this context is again based in ideas, learning the doctrines, believing correctly, knowing what the proper questions are and not asking the wrong ones.

Church in Mission Reviews Six Months Quaker Preacher The Cultural

Creating Liberated Spaces: Some Thoughts

Back in February, and on the dawn of Transfiguration Sunday, about 30 (?) folks piled into a Southeastern Portland home to share in a conversation being facilitated by two out of towners Eliacin Rosario-Cruz (Seattle) and Mark Van Steenwyk (Minnesota). The crowd was made up of a number of men and women from a variety of backgrounds, some Episcopalian, some pastors and clergy, some starting or living in intentional communities, all interested in what it means to follow the radical way of Jesus in our time. I was particularly interested in going because I wanted to meet Mark, whose website Jesus Manifesto I follow, and hang out with Eliacin and his family. But the description of the event from the website caught my attention nonetheless:

In what way is Jesus and his way actually revolutionary? Is Jesus’ call to “seek the Kingdom” actually a call to nonviolent resistance, to solidarity with the poor, to liberation for the oppressed?

What structures within our society (organizational structures, thought structures, etc.) get in the way of that happening? And what way can we realistically embody the Kingdom alternative?

Join us as we talk honestly about the radical call of Jesus, the distractions that gets in the way, and how we can begin to to create Kingdom spaces in the here and now.